Customs and Courtesies


Customs and Courtesies

Joshua High School Naval Junior ROTC

LtCol J.G. Davidson

A custom is an established practice. Customs include positive actions —

things you do, and taboos

—things you avoid.

Many customs compliment procedures required by military courtesy, while others add to the graciousness of garrison life. The breach of some customs merely brands the offender as ignorant, careless, or ill bred.

Violations of other customs, however, can bring official censure or disciplinary action.

The customs of the military are its common law.


Never criticize a leader in public.

Never go "over the heads" of superiors — don't jump the chain of command.

Never proffer excuses.

Try not to lead through intimidation…….


Never "wear" a superior's rank by saying something like, "the Colonel wants this done now," when in fact the Colonel said no such thing. Speak with your own voice.


Never run indoors or pretend you don't hear (while driving, for example) to avoid standing reveille or retreat.

THE RIGHT ANSWER If you don't know the answer to a superior’s question, you will never go wrong with the response, "I don't know sir, but I'll find out."

Courtesy among members of the Armed Forces is vital to maintain discipline. The distinction between civilian and military courtesy is that military courtesy was developed in a military atmosphere and has become an integral part of serving in uniform.


The salute is not simply an honor exchanged. It is a privileged gesture of respect and trust among soldiers. Remember the salute is not only prescribed by regulation but is also recognition of each other’s commitment, abilities, and professionalism.

History of the Salute

Some historians believe the hand salute began in late Roman times when assassinations were common. A citizen who wanted to see a public official had to approach with his right hand raised to show that he did not hold a weapon. Knights in armor raised visors with the right hand when meeting a comrade. This practice gradually became a way of showing respect and, in early American history, sometimes involved removing the hat. By 1820, the motion was modified to touching the hat, and since then it has become the hand salute used today. You salute to show respect toward an officer, flag, or our country.

 The salute is widely misunderstood outside the military. Some consider it to be a gesture of servility since the junior extends a salute to the senior, but it is quite the opposite. It is an expression that recognizes another member of the profession of arms. The fact that the junior extends the greeting first is merely a point of etiquette —a salute extended or returned makes the same statement.

Salute Scenario

 

LT Thompson saluted and replied with the Marine motto, “Semper Fi!"

LT Thompson and his newest NCO, SGT Jemison, were walking toward the orderly room one morning. As they turned the corner and approached the building, PFC Robertson walked out carrying a large box. PFC Robertson said, "Good morning, sir," and kept walking past the two. As his hands were occupied, he didn’t salute. After the PFC had passed, SGT Jemison asked the lieutenant why he saluted since the PFC did not.

"He did by rendering the greeting of the day. If I had been carrying something and he wasn’t, he would have saluted. It’s a privilege, not a chore," said LT Thompson. "It’s just as important for me to return a salute as for a Marine to render it."

The way you salute says a lot about you. A proud, smart salute shows pride in yourself and your unit and that you are confident in your abilities.

A sloppy salute might mean that you’re ashamed of your unit, lack confidence, or at the very least, that you haven’t learned how to salute correctly.

In saluting, turn your head and eyes toward the person or flag you are saluting. Bring your hand up to the correct position in one, smart motion without any preparatory movement. When dropping the salute, bring your hand directly down to its natural position at your side, without slapping your leg or moving your hand out to the side. Any flourish in the salute is improper.

The proper way to salute is to raise your right hand until the tip of your forefinger touches the outer headgear slightly above and to the right of your right eye. Your fingers are together, straight, and your thumb snug along the hand in line with the fingers. Your hand, wrist, and forearm are straight, forming a straight line from your elbow to your fingertips. Your upper arm (elbow to shoulder) is horizontal to the ground.

All service members in uniform are required to salute when they meet and recognize persons entitled (by grade) to a salute except when it is inappropriate or impractical.

A salute is also rendered:

When the United States National Anthem or foreign national anthems are played.

 

To uncased National Color outdoors. On ceremonial occasions such as changes of command or funerals.

At reveille and retreat ceremonies, during the raising or lowering of the flag.

 

During the sounding of honors. When pledging allegiance to the US flag outdoors.

 

When turning over control of formations. When rendering reports.

To officers of friendly foreign countries.

Salutes are not required when:

 Indoors, unless under arms and reporting to an officer or when on duty as a guard.  A prisoner or escorting prisoners.  Saluting is obviously inappropriate. However, in any case not covered by specific instructions, render the salute.


When overtaking an officer who is senior to you, tradition dictates that you must render a hand salute and say "BY YOUR LEAVE SIR or MA'AM" depending on the situation. The officer who is senior will return your salute and say "CARRY-ON ". You may then drop your salute and proceed.

Saluting Scenarios

More than two people present and of different officer ranks.

The general rule that applies is that you always salute the senior officer no matter how many other officers are present.

 Military courtesy shows respect and reflects self-discipline. Consistent and proper military courtesy is an indicator of unit discipline, as well. Soldiers demonstrate courtesy in the way we address officers or NCOs of superior rank.

Some other simple but visible signs of respect and self-discipline are as follows:

When talking to an officer of superior rank, stand at parade rest until ordered otherwise.

When you are dismissed, or when the officer departs, come to attention and salute.

When an officer of superior rank enters a room, the first soldier to recognize the officer calls personnel in the room to attention but does not salute. Walk on the left of an officer or NCO of superior rank.

When walking and approached by an a senior service member, you give an appropriate greeting by saying, "Good morning, Sergeant," for example.

Simple courtesy is an important indicator of a person’s bearing, discipline, and manners. It is a fact that most people respond positively to genuine politeness and courtesy.

Walk down a street in most towns and cities and see the response you get from people when you just say "good morning."


The flag of the United States is the symbol of our nation. The union, white stars on a field of blue, is the honor point of the flag. The union of the flag and the flag itself, when in company with other flags, are always given the honor position, which is on the right.

Some of the rules for displaying the flag are as follows:

 Installations will display the flag daily from reveille to retreat.  When a number of flags are displayed from staffs set in a line, the flag of the United States will be at the right; to the left of an observer facing the display. If no foreign national flags are present, the flag of the United States may be placed at the center of the line providing it is displayed at a higher level.  When the flag of the United States is displayed with state flags, all of the state flags will be of comparable size.

When you are passing or being passed by colors that are being presented, paraded, or displayed, salute when the colors are six paces from you. Hold the salute until the colors are six paces beyond you.

When in civilian clothing, the only change is to place your right hand over your heart instead of saluting. Vehicles in motion should stop. If you are in a car or on a motorcycle, dismount and salute. If you are with a group in a military vehicle or bus, remain in the vehicle. The individual in charge will dismount and salute.


The National and organizational flags carried by Color-bearing units are called the National Color and the organizational color respectively (the word color is capitalized when referring to the National flag only). When used singularly, the term "Color" implies the National Color. The term "Colors" means the national and organizational colors.

The Colors originated as a means of battlefield identification and performed this function for many years. The old rank of Ensign —originally an Army title, now used only in the Navy —was assigned to the regiment's junior officer who carried the flag (ensign) into battle. Because the color party marched into battle at the front and center of the regiment, casualties were high. Victories in the old days were sometimes expressed in terms of the number of enemy colors captured. The practice of carrying colors into battle persisted through the American Civil War; the last Medals of Honor awarded during this conflict were for capturing Confederate colors. Modern armies now carry colors only in ceremonies.

LtCol Davidson Pet Peeves

Pass without greeting

Forgetting the magic words

Competing for space

Lack of deference

Passive – Aggressive

Eye Rolls / Hand

Last Word

Side-bar conversations